Crimewatch: APD officers dealing with on-the-job injuries

When police officers put on the badge, they don't just risk taking a bullet. They chance a lifetime of pain from on-the-job injuries. In this week's Crime Watch, FOX 7's Noelle Newton looks into the hundreds of injuries Austin police report each year and their passion to overcome and get back out there.

Austin Police Detective Robert Holsonback battles through an intense strengthening treatment for a torn rotator cuff.

"Keep going. You can do it," said Dr. Steve Minors.

Holsonback says he was reaching back for his shotgun in his patrol car during a pre-shift inspection when he felt a pull in his right shoulder.

The overnight violent crime investigator has been on light duty since January.

Coaching him along is a doctor who, 16 years ago, helped him overcome another injury that many doctors told him would end his law enforcement career.

"I was picked up and thrown while trying to arrest a guy who was trying to kill his girlfriend," said Detective Holsonback.

The incident resulted in three herniated disks and extensive surgical repair.

"I had to have a two-level fusion. So I have two, six inch titanium rods and five titanium screws holding my lower back together now," said Holsonback.

Holsonback credits Dr. Minors for getting him back on patrol.

Hundreds of officers are hurt each year at APD.

One of the more recent incidents involved an officer who was burned attempting to rescue a man from a vehicle that was on fire.

Very few cases make headlines.

In 2014, 645 injury reports were filed. Incidents included exposure to infectious diseases, hearing loss, assaults by suspects and falls during icy rescues.

One officer missed 264 days of work after being ordered by a doctor to remain home to recover.

In 2015, 620 officers reported injuries.

Mitch Slaymaker, deputy executive director for the Texas Municipal Police Association, says whatever the total is, you can easily double it. Not all officers will acknowledge their ailments.

"Several factors play into that. There's the machismo culture. You don't want to admit that you were an actual victim, they got the better of you, you got hurt. So you suck it up, you move on. It's part of the culture of policing," said Slaymaker.

The TMPA only tracks officers assaulted in the line of duty. Statewide, 4,330 officers reported being injured by a suspect in 2014. 1,645 cases were deemed major injury.

81 percent of the incidents were classified as "strong-arm" involving hands, fists and feet. The rest included some sort of weapon.

Slaymaker has endured his fair share of pains.

"During 18 years of patrol on the street I've had a fractured tibia, a fractured fibula, hand, third degree ankle sprain, I've been knocked unconscious. Those are just the big ones," said Slaymaker.

Dr. Minors refers to his law enforcement patients as occupational athletes. He treats them the same as the professional athletes in the photos hanging on his walls.

"They have to be game ready, or as we say service ready. They need to stay healthy and they need to recover quickly which is the same thing with a pro-athlete," said Minors.

Minors hopes Holsonback can return to his normal shift in a month. Minors finds his tenacity inspiring.

"There is a deep commitment to the public," Minors said. "He's one of those people that doesn't put himself first. It's about making sure everyone is safe, everyone within his power is safe. I have such respect for that. This is my way of giving back to all of these guys because I'm not a police officer, but I respect deeply what they do."
 

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